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Tears flow as family reveals grief from teen's allergy death

A GRIEF-STRICKEN mother who is losing her hair, a father who blames himself, a little girl who doesn't understand and an older sister trying to hold it all together.

That is the shattered life of Raymond Cho's family, 18 months since the 16-year-old died after a severe allergic reaction to a walnut biscuit he ate at his Sydney school.

His older sister, Fiona, told Glebe Coroner's Court on Thursday her family had been happy and full of joy before Raymond collapsed at Ashfield Boys' High School on May 19 last year.

She said patches of her mother Lian's hair had fallen out in reaction to losing her son.

''As we watch more strands of her hair come out each day it [is] a constant reminder of the pain our family has gone through,'' Ms Cho said, as many in the public gallery sobbed.

Ms Cho said she often heard her parents weeping at night, knowing they blamed themselves.


''I know they are crying themselves to sleep,'' she said. ''I watch my parents cry and feel totally hopeless.''

Her sister, six-year-old Amanda, always asked when Raymond would come back to play with her. The girl wrote a letter to the inquest, after being told lots of people would listen because they cared about Raymond.

''I love my brother Raymond Cho for ever, ever, gigantic ever,'' she wrote. ''My brother was so kind to me. Now my brother is not here, my heart is feeling very, very different.''

Fiona Cho said though her brother suffered asthma and the nut allergy, he grew up to be strong and active.

She said the day Raymond collapsed, he had offered to bring home ice-cream for the family.

''These are the last words he said to me and the last time I heard his voice,'' she said. ''We are still in shock that something has happened to our little hero.''

The five days he was in a coma were among the hardest days of the family's life, she said.

''We were hoping and praying for a miracle, for Raymond to wake from his coma … for this nightmare to end. Our miracle never came.''

Earlier, Dr Robert Loblay, the director of the allergy unit at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, told the inquest Raymond may have accepted the cookie because he used the word ''peanut'' to describe all nuts.

The inquest heard Raymond said he was allergic to peanuts when the biscuits were offered, but took a bite when he found out they contained walnuts.

''There are … characteristics which are cultural which make the kids less inclined to complain or make a nuisance of themselves,'' he said.

''Quite a few of the children who died of anaphylaxis in NSW … were in fact Asian.''

The State Coroner, Mary Jerram, will hear final submissions on Friday.